Lent Devotions: More than we can handle

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).    

By Rev. J. Bentley Stewart

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

It is time to retire the platitude, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Perhaps, you already know this unhelpful aphorism is not in the Bible. Perhaps, your own life has dealt you experiences that were/are more than you can handle, and you therefore know that this pithy bromide will salt rather than salve your wounds. Perhaps, this Lent offers an invitation for turning toward freedom that begins by turning away from this cliché. The cliché does not serve us because it is often precisely when we realize we cannot handle our circumstances that we turn to God.

In full disclosure, I have encountered occasions where a person felt they were able to face the challenges of their circumstances because they were confident that God would not give them more than they could handle. In those instances, I bracket my theology and accompany them as they draw support from this understanding.

Alas, where does this rarely helpful saying come from?

“God is faithful and will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”
~ I Corinthians 10:13

Do you catch the slight nuance? The misunderstanding is understandable.

The forty days of Lent mirror the forty days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted. Jesus, who cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” was tempted in every way we are and was without sin. Even in the midst of unbearable suffering, Jesus still turned to God with his doubt. Jesus, schooled by the lament of prophets and psalmists, knew how to call God into being accountable to the covenant promise to be with him. “My God, you are the with-us-God, remember me.”

What parts of your life are testing your capacity to manage?

Where are you crying out to God?

Rev. J. Bentley Stewart is a chaplain at UCSF Medical Center and earned a Master of Divinity at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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